Most people first heard of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) when Beeple's Everydays: The First 5,000 Days sold for $69.3 million at Christie's in New York last year. Though blockchain technology and web3 were becoming increasingly well-known, most people were still unsure of the impact NFTs would have on the global art scene.

This is also true in Nigeria, where most people's opinion of NFTs came from Prince Jacon Osinachi, widely regarded as the first artist to help promote crypto art or blockchain art in Nigeria.

He joined Rare Art Lab in 2018, a platform that taught him how to steer art on the blockchain, and he starts to use Microsoft Word as his medium. His story has inspired several Nigerian artists, and he is the first African to appear at Christie's NFT auction. In March 2021, he sold $75,000 in art in ten days, accompanied by $80,000 on SuperRare for his piece, Becoming Sochukwuma. His success has increased the visibility of the Nigerian NFT scene.

Because of the size of its creator base, Nigeria's NFT setting became the largest in Africa's art on the blockchain ecosystem. Though it is still in its early stages, it has seen a lot of success in a short period of time, with major players like Anthony Azekwoh and Prince Jacon Osinachi selling 5.5ETH or $25.4k and 22ETH or $83.2k for their The Red Man and The Future is Female arts on SuperRare, respectively.

However, it is the exceptional talent of the scene that keeps it afloat, with several artists experimenting with various art disciplines and forms of art such as abstract figurations, sculpture, photography, and others.

Despite the fact that the space is still in its early stages, with several challenges such as a crypto ban and a small collector base, there are indications of promise.

Getting to know the Nigerian NFT scene

Mayowa is a digital artist gaining steam in Nigeria's digital space. Mayowa worked in the medical field before becoming a digital artist because he found it too demanding and didn't know how long it would take him to find a good job. Learning about it was much easier for him, as he only needed to read articles and watch YouTube tutorials to understand how the technology system worked.

"When I started NFT, it was tough for me because it felt like I wasn't seen despite how unique my work is. What I didn't anticipate was that it would not be a quick success."

However, Mayowa's story is all too common in the Nigerian NFT space. Navigating the blockchain is difficult for new artists, especially when trying to make sales, which is exacerbated by the country's lack of a large collector base. Artists must rely on international collectors to sell their work and must work hard to gain attention.

The cryptocurrency ban in Nigeria

The lack of a strong collector base in Nigeria is due in part to the Nigerian cryptocurrency ban, as NFTs are mostly purchased with cryptocurrencies.

The central bank of Nigeria (CBN) issued a press release on February 5, 2021, prohibiting financial institutions throughout the country from transacting in cryptocurrencies. Though there may be a loophole through peer-to-peer (P2P) trades, this could explain Nigeria's low NFT collector base. According to research, only 13.7% of Nigerians own NFT assets.

Another artist, Freddie Jacob, appreciates the independence that the NFT space provides. She doesn't want to be labeled, so she refers to herself as "an artist who also sells NFTs" rather than an NFT artist. "I create art that is frequently inspired by stories I've witnessed in society through an identity lens, culture, mental health, and the portrayal of strong characters."

She is one of the women working to increase the number of women in the Nigerian NFT space. They co-host the Twitter space "Nigeria women in the NFT community" with King Omobolarinwa.

Jacob's greatest challenge is the bear market, which affects the purchase and sale of NFTs and often demotivates artists like herself. She also addresses the issue of high minting fees, which are difficult to pay, particularly given Nigeria's current economic difficulties.

The first digital exhibition and museum in Nigeria

The intangibility of NFTs does not preclude exhibitions from taking place. This is due to the convergence of art and technology. Anthony Azekwoh, one of Nigeria's most prominent creators, held his first-ever digital exhibition in November 2021, becoming. The show had over a thousand viewers and did well in sales.

Art-Tech District, a west African digital art museum, organized the exhibition. Mosope Olaosebikan founded Art-Tech District in 2021 with the goal of providing a tourist experience while telling Nigeria's past, present, and future tales through a technological lens.

Though NFTs were not Olaosebikan's intention, when they went viral, he became intrigued and eventually realized how innovative they were. His mission now is to bring the world's attention to the enormous talent of NFT creators in Nigeria and West Africa through exhibitions and shows.

NFT inclusion at West Africa's largest art fair

Art X Lagos, the largest art fair in West Africa, is also reshaping the future of art on the blockchain. During the 6th international exhibition in November 2021, the fair teamed up with SuperRare to organize discussions about the burgeoning NFT space in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. The fair hosted talks as well as exhibition shows for digital artists from across the continent, as well as sales.

Izu Udokwu is a storyteller, designer, and artist who started working with NFTs in February 2021. His friend Prince Osinachi's art had heavily influenced him, and he decided to try his luck in space. He began creating NFTs at the crossroads of art and fashion.

Why do you think Nigerian artists are carving their own path in the NFT space? Drop your comments by sharing this article on social media.

Dec 15, 2022
Digital Lifestyle

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